Eagle Dynamics has taken the wrapper off of the DCS: F-16C Viper and the newest modern jet module for DCS World has officially arrived in the virtual skies. Read on for some of my early impressions and coverage from around the flight sim community.
The Viper in context
Since production began in 1976, over 4,600 F-16’s have rolled off the production line and are or have been in service with 25 air forces around the world. NATO allies and other nations use the F-16 as their frontline combat aircraft. They are multi-role jets and are often called to do everything from air combat to SEAD to strike missions.
Bringing the jet to DCS World was a logical choice given the type’s worldwide popularity and because of the great interest that sim fans have with the jet.
The F-16C in DCS World is being based on a USAF Block 50 jet and will eventually include features typical of the “CJ” F-16 with the available HARM Targeting Pod (HTS) and AGM-88 HARM missiles. This will give the F-16 a leg up beyond what the F/A-18C Hornet can offer in the SEAD role.
DCS World and Lock On: Modern Air Combat before it, have focused on other jets over the last decade, and the only place that F-16 fans could go was Microprose’s Falcon 4.0. That title has matured and evolved over the years becoming BMS, a community driven project. While Falcon fans are unlikely to jump to DCS World purely because of the jet, I suspect there are still a great many that are going to take interest with the entrance of the F-16 into DCS World.
And that brings me around to actually flying the jet in DCS World. Let’s get to that!
Flying a jet in DCS World takes hours and days of practice to understand the systems and get acquainted with how the jet operates in all of its various aspects.
After more than a year of flying the DCS: F/A-18 Hornet, I can safely say that I know maybe half of what the jet is truly capable of (maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit). Coming into the F-16 is like stepping into a different world – sure, there are plenty of transferable concepts, but this is a new jet and it’s going to take me time to get used to it.
My first flight was a hot start on the taxi-way at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and I took the opportunity to bind some basic controls and get started. The F-16C is not a difficult jet to handle on the ground (although take care turning a little too hard).
It’s also not a difficult jet to take-off with either. The F-16 lifts off very similarly to the F/A-18 in my opinion. You pull back, the nose rises, you wonder if you’ve got enough lift and then suddenly the gear pulls away from the runway and you’re flying and climbing quickly.
The view out the front of the jet is superb. Better than anything else in DCS World that I’ve experienced thanks to the wrap around cockpit glass that is free and unobstructed of any braces or structural supports. It’s gorgeous and it offers one heck of a great view forward.
In cockpit lighting, during the day a least, is very effective and convincingly done. Similar to the Hornet, when the sun hits the lights it almost completely eliminates the illumination, but, dip into a shadow or a roll away from the sun and the green shines through beautifully. I haven’t tried at night yet.
The cockpit looks really great too. The artwork on this looks to be done or essentially done and it walks the line between a factory new aircraft and a well worn aircraft. It essentially looks like something in between that is well maintained but it has its share of dirt and scratches. It’s similar, again, to the DCS: F/A-18 though I wonder if Eagle Dynamics artists have done even better here.
On the exterior we we only have the one skin right now. That isn’t likely to stay that way for long and there will surely be quite a few different skins popping up quickly both from Eagle Dynamics and from the third parties. The F-16 has terrific variety of skins both from various national aerobatic displays and from front line combat aircraft including all of the wild schemes that F-16 aggressors have worn over the years. There are some glorious options and I hope that Eagle Dynamics includes a wide variety of them in the base package.
The other comment I have is that the exterior skin doesn’t feel… finished.
Eagle Dynamics and Matt Wagner’s comments specifically suggest that the team is still finalizing the exterior skin. What we have is already quite good but it doesn’t feel like they are quite done yet. I can’t quite put my finger on it but it’s probably something to do with the reflections and some of the texture work that supports the lightning model and it likely needs a few finishing touches.
After that, I hope to see the paint kit come out and then we’ll see community artists going to town on making liveries this aircraft!
Flying (and hearing) it is fun
The F-16C is already quite a lot of fun to fly. It feels more like a fly-by-wire jet than the Hornet does and that gives it both a bit of an artificial feel as well as being quite nimble and easy to handle. It’s easy to be smooth and precise with your flying on this jet and even within the first few minutes I felt very comfortable doing tight turns, yanking the stick back for dramatic effect and rocketing skyward only to stall and point the nose back to the ground. The F-16 is in complete control the entire time.
The engine puts out gobs of power and you can feel it both with the performance and through the sounds. Both exterior and interior sounds for the F-16 have plenty of detail to them and the whine of the GE F110 from inside the cockpit is audible. I was wondering if they would do that, based on several F-16 cockpit videos that I’ve watched, and it’s clear that they did. The pitch changes convincingly on throttle up and down too.
Exterior sounds make you feel the power of the engine and it sounds glorious!
There’s a lot yet to come
As enamored as I am with the newest model for DCS World right now, it’s also clear that the F-16 has a ways to go before it’s a complete module. This is early access and it’s day one of early access so there is still much to do here.
There are quite a few screens on the MFD’s that show up with the words “PLACEHOLDER”, there’s no IFF yet, you can’t make the HUD SOI yet, the targeting pod is still fairly basic, and there are plenty of things such as the exterior lights that don’t seem to work properly.
Again, it’s day one and these sort of things are to be expected. In some ways the DCS: F-16C has more features than the DCS: F/A-18C did at launch and yet in other ways its rougher around the edges.
The F-16C is here and it’s clear that this is an early access jet. It has a tremendous foundation beneath it and it will only grow from here. I hope that Eagle Dynamics can deliver some key features such as IFF hopefully coming to the jet in the very near future. To be truly combat effective I feel like having Link-16 will also be a necessity and so I hope that their efforts on the Hornet some months back will help pay off here too.
The Viper is here folks and it’s off to a pretty good start! This is my earliest of impressions and I will be writing a lot about this jet in the future too so look for more coming soon as well as a full early impressions review once I’ve gotten more comfortable with the jet and have put some real hours on it.
Around the community
There’s tons of F-16C content coming from around the community. One YouTuber, Forest Rat, already has a couple of liveries available if you want to download them and he has a great video to showcase them too.
Spudnocker live streamed his first flights with the F-16 here:
Shiftie Mover from The Grim Reapers did a fantastic 2 hour, 40 minute stream of the F-16 covering all kinds of different systems and features as well as some first impressions.
And, if you want to just see the F-16 flying along, check out Randall MacDonald’s video here:
There will surely be many more to come!
Of course you folks probably want to see screenshots and so here we go! Lots of screenshots!
Update: October 4, 2019 – Added a video from Shiftie Mover. Fixed some grammatical issues… Too tired, need more coffee!